By Madeline Dunn, Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ historian and National Register of Historic Places coordinator
On July 7, 2017, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ State Historic Preservation Office received notification from the National Park Service that the Dinker-Irvin Cottage in Bethany Beach was officially listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the U.S. government’s official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures and objects deemed worthy of preservation.
The cottage’s nomination was prepared by a committee of volunteers from Bethany Beach which included the property owners Mr. and Mrs. Clem Edgar; Carol Olmstead, chair of the Bethany Beach Cultural and Historic Affairs Commission; and other residents who worked diligently with staff from the Preservation Office throughout the past year. The successful listing of the property complements Delaware’s statewide Historic Preservation Plan 2013–2017 which encourages the identification, documentation and nomination of 20th-century buildings.
Built in 1904 by William Dinker, one of Bethany Beach’s original financial investors, this white-painted cut-shingled beach cottage was relocated to its 310 Garfield Parkway Extended address in 1911 because of a property dispute. Between 1922 and 1925, part of the first floor was utilized as a U.S. Post Office. As the resort’s only-documented public building to survive from this early period, the cottage served as the terminus of the contract mail-service route known as Star Route 12110. Serving the local communities of Bethany Beach, Ocean View, Millvillle, Clarksville, Omar and Frankford, it took approximately 3 1/2 hours to make an 11-mile trip by horse-drawn wagon between these six Sussex County communities.
In 1925, a Pittsburgh, Pa. resident named Ida May Irvin purchased the property which remained in the ownership of female descendants for more than 90 years. Despite its continuous use as a family beach cottage, it retains a high level of architectural integrity. Among its most significant features are the living room’s tongue-and-groove paneled fireplace wall and ceiling, the basket-weave- and running-bond-brickwork around the fireplace and an original closed-string staircase. Other significant features include the dining room’s built-in corner cupboard, the pantry’s built-in floor to ceiling cupboards with original electroplated hardware, as well as original flooring, baseboards and molded door and window surrounds with bullseye corner block-trim.
With an eye toward preserving this historic building, its owners recently donated it to the Town of Bethany Beach. In consultation with the National Park Service and the State Historic Preservation Office, it was repositioned 200 feet west of its nominated location in June 2017. As one of six remaining cottages constructed in the resort community between 1902 and 1905, the town plans to utilize it as a museum which will highlight both the history of the cottage and of Bethany Beach.